Friday, July 27, 2012

Life with an elderly teeager

My father, to whom you have been previously introduced, is not an easy or particularly nice person.  The face he shows to the world is a completely different person than the one that can emerge when he doesn't get his way or is angry.  He is always self-centered and self-involved, failing to see anything from someone elses perspective.  To keep him happy I walk on eggshells using my best "dealing with teenagers" strategies, knowing that I can't MAKE him do the right thing but hoping that I can get him to want to do the right thing on his own. I usually fail.

Usually I am just exasperated with him but today I am ashamed of him.  The story is so selfish that I cannot believe I am related to him.  It all started when he made the decision that he should no longer drive. It was the right decision and he made that decision himself a few months ago.  Since then I have been at his beck and call and have unfailing been available to him or to run his errands for him.  The only thing he has suffered due to loss of driving is his pride.

 It is now time to get rid of one of his two cars.  Although it only has 67,000 miles, it is over 25 years old and  it needs a muffler and  it needs to get its annual inspection.  A car in this condition is impossible to sell and the best you can hope is that you can donate it to a worthy cause.     Henry, the African-American clerk at our local gas station, where my dad has purchased gas and had his car repaired for many, many years, told him if he wanted to sell the car that he would like to buy it.  Why the detail that he is African-American is important to me is not easily understood but he is old of undeterminate age, he has lived his whole life in the south and I'm certain has been exposed to unthinkable things in his lifetime, and he is extremely nice to our whole family providing rides to and from the station when our cars are being repaired, he is unfailing polite, and he is trying very hard to provide for his wife and children on a minimum wage job.  So it seems like a very easy transaction, right?  We establish a bare minimum price for the car so he doesn't lose his pride at being able to purchase it for his daughter, and we get rid of a car that we don't need and will cost us money to maintain.  This seemed like a clear win-win to me.  Not so fast....

My father wanted $500 dollars, which is about double its probable value.  (I actually put the value at $0 as I just wanted to get rid of it easily.)  So my husband told Henry that my dad had decided to sell the car and asked if he was still interested.  He was as he needed a car for his teenage daughter.  They were negotiating a price when the mechanic at the shop mentioned that it was going to need $500 - $800 worth of work to bring it up to standard.  That meant that we would need to establish a much lower price for the car.  Remember, the goal is to just get rid of it and get it to Henry.  The price my dad was willing to accept was about $50 more than I was willing to ask Henry to pay.  My father exploded and ranted and raved at my husband and said "$50 doesn't mean anything to me" to which we responded "But it means a whole lot to Henry."

So the deal went down today.  I hadn't wanted to get involved but I had to do the final transaction.  I cried a little and talked to my best friend about how horrible I felt about what my father was doing and I was terrified of what my father would say to me.  I felt like I was 8 years old all over again,  waiting for the wrath of my father and letting it fall all around me while I could do nothing to defend myself.

My husband made the deal with Henry over the phone and gave him the lower price.  When no one was looking I slipped an extra $50 into the envelope Henry had given me  before I gave it to my father.   They both finished the transaction feeling like winners. I just felt relief.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

thoughts while mowing the lawn #2

Things are going well for for my family right now so why am I so terrified that something will go wrong?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

thoughts while mowing the lawn #1

Why don't people have their kids mow their lawns anymore? 

When I was growing up mowing lawns was the way the boys in the neighborhood made a little extra money.  You could start doing it about age 11 or 12 and a couple of lawns a week and you were rich!  I didn't mow our lawn very often as that was "men's work" but I did have to learn how to do it and mowed occasionally.  

When my kids were little and my husband on travel (which was most of the time) I mowed the lawn myself to save money.  I did have to have my father come over to start the lawn mower for me and then I couldn't stop until it was finished because I wouldn't be able to start the mower again.  Luckily you could do our lawn in about an hour and a half. I wouldn't have lasted much longer.  As the kids grew up they mowed the lawn.  Maybe they didn't always do a great job but it was respectable, and they earned a bit of extra allowance for their efforts.  My son mowed one neighbor's lawn for years.  He just went over when it needed mowing and eventually she would pay him for the job. Sometimes a year later but he always got paid.

Now everyone in my neighborhood, except me,  has a lawn service, even the ones with children of appropriate lawn mowing age.  These are not rich people and I have no idea what the service costs but it can't be cheap.  But they don't bother to ask their children to pitch in and do a bit of work for the family.  The kids are at the pool and when they return the lawn has been mowed.  They probably don't even realized how it happened.  What will these children think about hard work and contributing to common good when they grow up?  This is an important lesson that can be easily learned when they are given the responsibility to see that the lawn needs to be mowed and then to mow it. 

These families aren't doing their children any favors.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

of this and of that....

1)  I'm already tired of all the political squabbling.  Listening to the Republicans makes my head explode.  I will not make it to November at this rate.

2) On the good news, no, great news front - KT successfully defended her dissertation and is now Dr. KT!  We are so proud of her!  After her defense we went to Morton's for dinner which was a fabulous once-in-a-lifetime event  as I cannot stand to pay what is the equivalent of a month's rent for most people on a dinner, no matter how wonderful the food and service (and they really did make it a special celebration dinner for us). 

3) and the boat that son D crews on came in third in its class in the Chicago-Mac Race!  What an accomplishment!  He is finally coming into his own in a field where being able to do the job means so much more than being able to take a test.  He now uses engineering skills,  math/trig, and a solid understanding of general physics to make that boat go faster and faster.  He also wants to get teenagers interested in boat building to help them develop craftsman skills, team-work, and work/life skills.  He knows that for some kids they need to use the education that they don't even realize they have in order to make sense of it.  He's developing contacts to help him start a non-profit foundation.  Hopefully it is 'profitable' enough to pay him a salary.  And he has a lovely, not-crazy, girlfriend!

4)  I've been thinking about a comment Bushafullofgrace made on my Seven Deadly Sins quiz.  She had scored low on everything but envy.  She felt badly that she had become envious after her financial setbacks have hit her so hard.  And I felt badly that what was to have been a fun little quiz had resulted in her unhappy reflection on her situation.  And I realized that it's easy for me to not be envious when I have so few wants that are not realized.  But there are actually two kinds of envy:  1) a "bad" envy where you are resentful of what what others have, and 2) a "good" envy that does not wish other's ill because of their good fortune but which motivates you to move forward.  I'm going to postulate that Busha is in the "good" envy category where she is making the best of her situation and will continue to move forward to her happiness.  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

"You people", REALLY.....

Ann Romney: 'We've Given All You People Need To Know' About Family Finances 

      Well, we now know where Ann Romney stands on the separation of classes.  It's a shame that her mother didn't teach her that class wasn't defined by money but by your actions and manners.  You can be a low class bigot no matter how much money you have.  Thanks, Ann, for reminding us of this lesson.  

And I'm not venturing into the release of income tax returns.  She's clearly said enough.  I guess she actually has given us all we need to know about her family's finances.  We know that they have something to hide.  Hopefully, they are ashamed of whatever it is.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Seven Deadly Sins - a quiz!

I found this over at  Take the quiz and see how you fare.  I'd better get back to cleaning house now that I officially rank medium on "sloth".

Greed:Very Low
Envy:Very Low

Take the Seven Deadly Sins Quiz

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

This morning I got around to reading the July 5 - 19 "Rolling Stone".   In addition to an article on 'Rachel Maddow's Quiet War on Television News" that I intend to read, it had an article entitled 'The Fallen' which cronicles the story of three separate homeless families in Santa Barbara, CA.

They all started out with jobs, middle class or middle class aspirational jobs, and had homes, businesses, cars.  Now they have cars, cars that they live in in church parking lots.  They are the reminders to us all that we are all one medical emergency, two bad decisions, and a few paychecks away from homelessness.  None of us are immune; some of us just have further to fall.

The striking thing about their story is how it impacts your very core of who you are.  Homelessness changes how people look at you, and think of you, and treat you in ways that have nothing to do with being homeless.  Although many people are homeless due to addictions, chemical and alcohol abuse, and mental illness not everyone is homeless due to those reasons.  Some are homeless due to plain old bad luck - the bad luck of a bad economy, or an illness, or losing a job.  These people were our neighbors, the other customers in the grocery store, the lady that sold us our summer plants. 

Being homeless becomes a full-time job. Just trying to make it through the day or the next meal or the night takes all the mental and physical energy you can muster.  And how do you find a job with no phone and no fixed address?  How do you interview for a job when you can't shower or press your clothes?  Where is the safety net for people who are struggling with such dignity?

Many years ago I volunteered to serve breakfast at a local church that provided hot breakfasts and bag lunches to the homeless.  My daughter was about 10 years old and I took her with me.  She could be useful setting and clearing tables while we cooked and served.  She was standing in the big parish hall while everyone ate and many of the homeless men approached her.  The were not trying to frighten her or molest her.  They wanted to make certain that she had gotten enough to eat and to give her the cookies that they had received in their bag lunches.  They thought she was a homeless child.  She had to explain that she'd had breakfast and had cookies at home, but thank you.  They were willing to share the little that they had.  What are so many American's unwilling to share when they have so much?

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

return of civilization

Monday night trucks arrived in our neighborhood.  First the tree people who came from New York State starting moving the big trees off the power lines and power poles.  There was lots of work for them and we all watched in awe as the big buckets on the trucks carefully threaded their way into the tangle of limbs and branches and they carefully cut away the trees.  Next to arrive was help from the Mississippi utility companies.  After the tree people separated the lines from the trees and the trees were cut out of the way, the utility people put up the lines, replaced transformers and checked the power boxes to the homes to make certain they weren't damaged in the transformer explosion (which actually left a giant hole in the road), and they restored our power!

It was odd to find lights on in out of the way places in the house.  We kept switching on lights by habit as we wandered the house in the dark for three days and now the place was lit up like a Christmas tree.  The strange thing was after sweltering for the last three days, the evening was reasonably cool, only in the 80's and I kept the air conditioning turned off!  The A/C is back on now as we are looking at temps to 100+ for the next three days when it will cool off to the 90's.   Now I'm spending my time cleaning up and doing laundry and putting away everything that migrated down from the upstairs of our house during the outage. 

Someone asked me how long I thought civilization would last without power.  My reply was it would only last until the gin and tonics ran out. 

Monday, July 02, 2012

update from Armageddon

Last week after days of extreme heat I was hoping for a thunderstorm to clear the air and humidity and give my plants a much needed drink of water.  Instead I got Armageddon.  Friday night about 10:45 pm, we were watching Charlie's favorite show, Discovery Channel's "Flying Wild Alaska", when we thought the end of the world had come.  With no warning,since we weren't watching a local station we didn't get the emergency weather updates, the wind picked up and outside our house looked like a scene from the Wizard of Oz.  I grabbed the chair cushions and plants off the front porch and slammed the door just as a huge twig came hurling toward the front door.  Much wind and lightening and very little rain later, the lights went out.  It was a "Derecho", a storm that started in Chicago and laid waste from there to the Atlantic Ocean.  Because of our location just at the bottom of a large hill, we got the worst effects of the storm as the wind picked up speed due to the Venturi effect of compressing the air under the hill.  Everyone in the path of the "derecho" had a huge storm but we have a narrow path of destruction where the trees were literally stripped of leaves.

The morning after the storm, after checking on my dad who lives nearby, we went to the grocery to buy ice.  My kudos go to Shopper's Food Warehouse which, despite running on just their emergency generators, was open and had pulled their ice supply to the front of the store.  I was able to get a couple of bags for me and a couple for my dad.  We did a survey of the neighborhood and discovered that the damage was in pockets, one street had no damage, the next one over was covered in downed trees.  With multiple trees down in our neighborhood the streets were blocked and the power lines are a spaghetti of tangles that makes me think if I was the power company I wouldn't even try to untangle them;  I'd just start over.

Late in the day we decided to head to Ikea to walk around and hit the shopping mall to get some A/C.  After a long shopping mall visit and a stop for dinner we returned home to find that 1) my father now had power (yay!) and 2) we had to try about 6 different ways to get into our neighborhood because more streets were now closed.  We thought we were going to have to hike in, but the last way in (which if you were not native to the area you never would have known about) was open and we arrived to our dark home. 

So here were are at Monday.  The power company hasn't yet scheduled any repairs in our neighborhood so I'm figuring we have at least 2 more days or more.  They say by Friday they will have 90% restored.  I just hope I'm not in the 10%.  It is heading for the upper 90's to 100 every day.  Even I, who don't mind the heat, am missing my fans and my refrigerator and my internet.  I've thrown out food and stashed a bit of stuff in my dad's freezer.  We will survive this and I hope mostly with good humor.  This afternoon I'm at the library sharing my power strip so people can use their computers and recharge their cell phones.

I can generally get through the day just fine but we are having trouble sleeping since the upstairs of our house is about 100 degrees.  We've put a blowup bed on the porch but I'm so restless I spend most of the night just wandering the house.  As I remind my children when things like this happen, it will make a great cocktail party story someday.

So, here are my tips for coping:
  • Don't bitch and moan, it only makes you feel worse.
  • Shower often, sometimes three times a day.  You'll feel better.
  • Remind yourself that it could be worse.  The house didn't burn down, a tree didn't fall on our house or car, we weren't injured, and it's not cold.
  • A couple of gin and tonics before bed really help!